MTA offers few definite answers to L train concerns

Stuyvesant Town resident Mary Garvey brings up bike lanes at the meeting. (Photos by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

As of Monday night, the MTA would still not confirm or deny the possibility of exit-only L train stations at First and Third Avenues or the specifics of increased bus service during the revised L tunnel construction project.

Representatives from the agency were at a Community Board 6 meeting on Monday, where frustrated East Side residents in attendance didn’t get any of the answers they were hoping for.

The CB6 meeting was the first appearance by the transit authority at the community board since the new plan, which allows the L train to continue running while work is being done, was announced in January. Officials from the agency shared updates at the meeting that the MTA had offered local elected officials in mid-February.

Glen Lunden, manager of operations planning at NYC Transit, said that part of the mitigation efforts under the revised plan includes increasing service on the M14, especially along the M14A, which uses Avenue A and runs from the West Village to Grand Street on the Lower East Side. The M14D uses Avenue D, and goes between Chelsea Piers and Delancey Street on the Lower East Side. As Town & Village has previously reported, the agency is planning to launch Select Bus Service on the M14 route but the express but service won’t be available until later in the year.

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MTA rebuilding stairway at Union Square L train platform

Union Square station stairwell on the L train platform (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

The MTA announced last weekend that the stairs connecting the L train with the uptown and downtown NQRW trains will be demolished and rebuilt this March.

The stairs will be unavailable beginning on March 4 while the project is ongoing and the agency said it expects the stairways to reopen by the end of the month.

The MTA said that the uptown and downtown staircases, which currently face each other on the L platform, will be redesigned to make it easier for commuters to navigate than the current configuration and dissipate crowds to move along the platform more quickly.

This includes expanding the width of the lower flight of both staircases from five feet to seven feet so it matches the width of the upper flight, which is already seven feet. The extra width will add enough space for an extra passenger lane so it can fit three people at a time instead of just two.

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MTA announces open houses on revised L train plan

L train at First Avenue (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Sabina Mollot

The MTA has announced it will hold a series of open houses starting in March to address any concerns related to the revised L train plan. Representatives from the Department of Transportation and NYC Transit will also be available to discuss planned street treatments and M14 Select Bus Service.

The four open houses, two in Manhattan, two in Brooklyn, are scheduled for:

Thursday, March 7: Our Lady of Guadalupe at St. Bernard, 328 West 14th Street (between 8th and 9th Avenues)
Wednesday, March 13: Williamsburg Northside School, 299 N. 7th Street (at Meeker Avenue)
Tuesday, March 19: Grand Street Campus High School, 850 Grand Street (between Bushwick Avenue and Waterbury Street)
Monday, April 8: 14th Street Y, 344 East 14th Street (between 1st and 2nd Avenues)

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New L woes: Delayed SBS, Report of exit-only stations

Council Member Keith Powers said he has asked the MTA not to make the First and Third AvenueL stations exit only during the revised L train project, but hasn’t received an answer. (Photos by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

With L train riders wondering just how rough their commutes will be for the next 15-20 months, the MTA is now saying the work should take less time than originally thought, 15-18 months.

However, during this time, there is the possibility that the First and Third Avenue stops could become exit only to limit crowding, a plan the agency was considering, according to a report based on a draft memo obtained by Streetsblog. Additionally, while there will be M14 Select Bus Service, that isn’t expected to be made available until the fall, local elected officials recently learned.

Council Member Keith Powers, who was in attendance at an MTA briefing held last Wednesday for elected officials, said he has grilled the agency on these and other concerns from L train riders and residents who live around the construction zone. Another concern is that with the revised L train repair plan, service will be dramatically reduced on weeknights from 8 p.m.-5 a.m. and on the weekends.

“The number one concern we (have been hearing) was the possibility of First Avenue (and Third Avenue) being exit only,” Powers said. “I pushed back on this very hard. We can’t close First Avenue if the SBS isn’t ready in time. This is why you need L train alternatives that are good. We want there to be bus service or an L train stop. This is unacceptable. Not to have it in a construction zone, it’s a triple whammy. It’s unacceptable.”

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L train service disrupted due to oppressive fumes

L train

By Sabina Mollot

As if the smells in the subway weren’t already oppressive enough, L train service was suspended on Tuesday afternoon at around 1 p.m. when a gas odor began wafting through the Graham Avenue station in Brooklyn earlier in the day.

The smells became so bad one person fainted at the Lorimer station, Gothamist reported, while according to the Daily News, another straphanger passed out as the train approached First Avenue.

By 3:30 p.m., L train service had resumed in both directions with delays, despite the fact that “lingering gas smells may be present at the stations in the area,” the MTA said in an announcement. Still, according to the MTA, the stations were determined to be safe.

MTA spokesman Maxwell Young told Town & Village that after hearing customers complain about the odor that morning, the agency initially thought this was due to leftover fumes from diesel work trains passing through the stations. The MTA expected to fumes to dissipate, explaining this is what usually happens, but when the smell lingered, the agency launched an investigation.

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L train service to be disrupted nights and weekends through March 18

Straphangers waiting for the L at First Ave. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

Despite all the cheering about the L train shutdown being averted, riders will be without service on most of the line on nights and weekends through the end of March.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority announced in an online advisory on Friday that unlike the revised L train plan, which will only be done on one tunnel at a time, the current project, which starts on Monday, January 28, will require a total shutdown of service between Eighth Avenue in Manhattan and Broadway Junction in Brooklyn. One reason given for the shutdown was that work is being done to repair the track (including removing and replacing all 16,000 feet of rails, plates and ties supporting the track) with specialized equipment that needs access to the full track. The other reason cited for the full shutdown has to do with where switches, which are also being worked on, are located.

“The tracks south of Bedford Ave. have an ‘interlocking plant,’ also known as a ‘double crossover,’ which is what allows us to switch trains from one track to another,” the MTA explained. “The switches and signals that form this interlocking are located on both tracks.”

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Water main break disrupts L train service

Feb26 L Train

By Sabina Mollot

A water main break in Chelsea caused L train service to be disrupted on Wednesday morning as crews worked to stop the flooding.

According to the Department of Environmental Protection, the 20-inch pipe located at Seventh Avenue between 14th and 15th Street burst at around 5:35 a.m. The water was later shut off though, stopping the leak, though not before some flooding in the subway. As of 9:30 a.m., crews were still working to excavate the roadway and repair the main though 14th Street was reopened to traffic.

As of 9:15 a.m., there was still no L train service between Union Square and Eighth Avenue, though otherwise L trains were still running every six minutes, the MTA said.

Still, the agency warned, “Expect delays in both directions” and suggested taking the M14 bus instead.

On its website, the MTA said water had stopped flowing into the tunnel, and crews were still busy clearing water and debris, and inspecting all affected switch and signal equipment. “We are working hard to restore full service by the afternoon rush,” the agency said.

L train updates have been posted online.

Update at 4:30 p.m.: A spokesperson for the DEP says a new valve has been installed and water service restored to 15th Street between 6th and 7th Avenues.  Work continues to repair the main and restore water service to a building on corner of 14th Street and 7th Avenue, which is home to about 450 people. Work was still ongoing to resurface western lanes of Seventh Avenue though they were expected to reopen within the hour.

MTA says shutdown officially off despite lack of board vote

Straphangers waiting for the L at First Ave. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

Two days after the board members of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority held an emergency meeting on the alternative L train repair plan, albeit without holding a vote on a subject, the MTA announced that the shutdown was definitely not happening.

After reiterating that the agency had been presented with a plan for the damaged Canarsie tubes that would allow for less disruption for riders, it said in a press release last Thursday that “the total shutdown of both tunnels and all service scheduled for April 27 will not be necessary.”

The MTA added that the construction schedule and new contracts were expected to take several weeks to complete.

While no dollar figure was mentioned, the MTA also said the cost would not likely be higher than the original plan and that the repair time estimate remained at 15-20 months, as the governor had predicted.

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28th Street 6 station reopens

A floral mosaic pattern adorns the inside of the newly-renovated Kips Bay subway station. (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

The 28th Street 6 station reopened on Monday evening after being closed for renovations since last July.

The station was expected to reopen around the same time as the 23rd Street F/M station at Sixth Avenue, which did come back into service on the last day of November, the walls of the newly-renovated station adorned with tile mosaics of Weimaraners in collared shirts, but the repairs for the 6 station in Kips Bay needed to be more extensive than the agency initially expected.

A representative for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority told Town & Village that the delay in reopening 28th Street was due to significant deterioration to the station’s steel column structure that needed to be fixed. Customers were alerted through social media, station signage and digital signage that the station was expected to re-open by mid-January.

The MTA announced the station’s reopening on Twitter this past Monday, noting that the agency had repaired the platform’s structural steel and concrete, replaced the platform edges and repaired the stairways. The MTA also added new digital wayfinding and customer information screens to the station.

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Whose subway line is it, anyway?

MTA board meets on new L train plan, with mixed reviews

Some of the crowd at the L train meeting on Tuesday (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

On Tuesday, as Governor Cuomo gave his state of the state address, which mentioned his eleventh hour L train shutdown alternative, the Metropolitan Transit Authority did as the governor’s been demanding, holding an emergency board meeting on the state of the L train.

At this meeting, which drew a crowd of over 100 people, a mix of members of the public and media professionals as well as at least a couple of elected officials, over a dozen MTA board members took turns asking questions about Cuomo’s alternative to the shutdown. There was no vote on whether to approve it or not.

Meanwhile, a few board members, including Department of Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg, were confused about what they were there for since the alternative repair plan to the Canarsie tubes has already been spoken about as if it’s a done deal.

“Is the decision made?” asked Trottenberg. “Do we have any actual role here? I’m not hearing that we do.”

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Stuyvesant Town residents hope for less chaos on 14th St., old layout on 20th St.

Workers remove signs surrounding the L train construction zone on East 14th Street after Governor Cuomo’s announcement for an alternative plan to the shutdown. (Photo by Hermann Reiner)

By Sabina Mollot

With the dreaded L train shutdown no longer in the works, residents along the East 14th Street construction zone are now wondering if this means they can finally get a break from the endless construction, at least on Saturdays, while others are hoping the city will undo the recent reconfiguration of East 20th Street that’s led to a slew of parking tickets and towed cars.

Susan Steinberg, president of the Stuyvesant Town-Peter Cooper Village Tenants Association, is among those wondering about both.

“What effect will the change have on the construction on East 14th Street?” she asked. “Did the relevant agencies just spend two years doing work they didn’t have to? Will East 14th Street still be a staging area? Will there be impacts on noise, dust and debris? Does that mean the East 20th Street redesign was not required? Can 20th Street be restored to what it was originally?”

Until those questions are answered, Steinberg said the TA has no position on the new plan.

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Bike lane network growing

Department of Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg discusses the bike lane expansion at a Flatiron press conference. (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

The Department of Transportation announced on December 19 that the city created 20.9 miles of protected bike lanes in 2018, expanding the bike network as cyclist fatalities also declined to a single-year-record low.

The DOT made the announcement with transportation advocates and local elected officials adjacent to the new crosstown protected bike lane on 26th Street, just north of Madison Square Park. The new protected bike lane on 29th Street is the westbound counterpart to the pair that includes the new lane on 26th Street, which heads eastbound. The two lanes are midtown’s first crosstown protected bike lanes.

Both new lanes, along with other treatments implemented by the DOT in 2018, were put in place in preparation for the upcoming L train shutdown (since cancelled!) and the majority of DOT’s projects on protected bike lanes in 2018 focused on preparations for the closure.

The new lanes on 26th and 29th Streets, which run from First to 12th Avenue, are among the new protected bike lanes that the DOT expects will be used heavily by displaced L train riders.

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Cuomo calls on MTA to hold public vote on new L train plan

Sept20 L train work site closeup

Part of the L train construction site on East 14th Street (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

On Friday morning, Governor Andrew Cuomo, who a day earlier had made a bombshell announcement that the dreaded L-pocalypse could be avoided, further argued for his alternative plan, which would limit L service during repairs but not halt it.

Cuomo, during a phone conference with reporters, called on the MTA to hold a public board meeting on the proposal, made by a team of engineers from the universities of Columbia and Cornell, and make a quick decision for it or against it. However, the call may have been more about defending the governor’s change of heart mere months before the 15-month shutdown between Brooklyn and Manhattan was slated to begin, since the MTA had already stated that it accepted the engineers’ findings.

Asked about the governor’s request, a spokesperson for the MTA referred to its statement from Thursday, which said:

“The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) today accepted the recommendations of a panel of engineering experts that determined a complete closure of the L Train Tunnel is unnecessary… Work could be completed on nights and weekends only, with a single tube providing continued service in both directions during work periods.

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2018: A year of L hell, ferry launch and more

Vehicles and pedestrians squeeze between construction barriers along East 14th Street. (Photos by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

The year 2018 didn’t lack for major changes in the community from the transformation of East 14th Street into a (potentially full-time) construction zone to the maiden voyage of a ferry with a stop at Stuyvesant Cove to the axing of a courtyard full of beloved trees in Stuyvesant Town. There was also what appeared to be an uptick in crime perpetrated by youths and homeless men in Kips Bay as well as some political intrigue, with Congressional fixture Carolyn Maloney seeing her first serious competition in nearly a decade.

For more on the year that was, as covered by this newspaper, read on:

  1. There is no doubt at this point that 2018 was the year of L hell. (The day after Town & Village went to press, Governor Cuomo announced his alternative proposal.) Long before the dreaded L train shutdown even would begin, residents of the street have been impacted by the loss of 60 parking spaces, constant noise and clouds of dust from the vehicles going in and out of the construction area along the north side of the street, all while construction on developments goes on along the south side of the street. Local elected officials have been pushing the MTA for some concessions and have won a few so far, like better lighting along the construction barriers, sound reducing blankets and the installation of air quality monitors. But the effort has remained to reduce evening and weekend hours of work to give neighbors — some suffering from respiratory problems — a break. At one point, a lawsuit that had been filed to stop or delay the L train work due to accessibility and congestion issues was expanded to include the misery felt by residents whose apartments face the construction zone between Stuyvesant Town and the East Village.

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Governor cancels L train shutdown for alternative plan

Governor Andrew Cuomo at the announcement on Thursday (Photo via Governor Cuomo Flickr)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Governor Andrew Cuomo effectively canceled the 24/7 L train shutdown in favor of a plan that will supposedly fix the Canarsie tube through work on nights and weekends, the governor’s office announced in a press conference on Thursday.

The announcement came only a month after the governor conducted a last-minute inspection of the tunnel, despite the fact that the MTA and respective city agencies have been planning the shutdown for the last three years and the closure was scheduled to start in less than four months.

According to the New York Times, Cuomo is proposing to implement a plan that would use technology from Europe to fix the tunnel, which would allow the L to have full train service during the weekdays and would close one of the tubes on nights and weekends for the repairs.

The MTA’s acting chairman Fernando Ferrer, who was appointed by Cuomo, told the New York Times that the agency “welcomed” the plan and would be adopting it, with the project expected to take 15 to 20 months, compared to 15 months for the fulltime shutdown.

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